Mrs America is the true story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and its opposition led by Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett).
Phyllis Schlafly vs Jill Ruckelshaus
Mrs America follows a simple formula. Each episode focuses on a certain character and chronicles the the Equal Rights Amendment movement from their standpoint. This week is dedicated to Republican feminist Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks). However, it seems as if Ruckelshaus isn’t as central a character as say Betty Freidan (Tracey Ullman), Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) or Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba). The episode may be titled ‘Jill’ but it crams in a lot: the run-up to the 1976 US election (in which Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated President Gerald Ford), the growing Republican support around Ronald Reagan, the sex scandals surrounding Wayne Hays and other Congressmen on Capitol Hill. Frankly, we learn more about other storylines than Ruckelshaus.
However, she has her moment twice. First, when she’s appointed as the presiding officer of the National Commission on the observance of International Women’s year by President Ford (Tom Barnett). As the First Lady Betty Ford (Lori Harrier) puts it, “Who better to prove that feminism isn’t a dirty word than a Midwestern married mother of five? You’re as American as apple pie.” The second is when Ruckelshaus takes Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), who’s expanding her reach by making allies, out for drinks. In what is possibly the best scene of the episode, the two trade friendly barbs until the topic of secretaries being sexually harassed by Congressmen is brought up. Ruckelshaus, in a moment of sisterhood, confides in Schlafly how she’s forced to brush off sexual innuendos and inappropriate touches. However, Schlafly, firmly ensconced in her bubble of privilege, responds with a, “Don’t you think those kind of women are just inviting it? Virtuous women are rarely accosted by unwanted sexual propositions.” Ruckelshaus is naturally appalled and lobs a verbal shot at her as she leaves: “You want to get ahead by climbing on the shoulders of men, Phyllis? Fine. Just know, they’re looking right up your skirt.”
Creator: Dahvi Waller
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, Sarah Paulson, Tracey Ullman
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
Read recaps of previous episodes here.